Iconic Kentucky Kingdom coaster opens for first time in five years
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After sitting still for five years, Kentucky Kingdom has debuted a renovated version of its classic wooden coaster.
Thunder Run was built in 1990, but after the park shut down about five years ago, so did all the rides. Many, including the wooden coaster, began to rot and rust. "This ride has been ignored for five years, and probably a little ignored before then," said park president Ed Hart.
With Hart back at the helm, Kentucky Kingdom has been undergoing major renovations. Hart admits the park was in bad shape, and needed a lot of work. But for months, they have been painting, replacing, and re-building. Thursday they showed off some of that hard work.
With about a dozen roller coaster enthusiasts buckled up, Thunder Run opened up to a hand-picked group for the first time.
Every inch of track is brand new. Hart said they replaced 4,400 linear feet of timber. "it's actually better than it's ever been before," he said. But the skeleton and the concept is as original as its 1990 debut.
The roller coaster experts got the first ride, and the reviews were sparkling. "Another wonderful awesome ride, it's like the smoothest one," said Paul Blick.
Roller coaster expert Tim O'Brien has ridden a few coasters. "I stopped counting around 495," he said. He was there in 1990 when Thunder Run first opened. He said the coaster now ranks in the top ten. "I was expecting big things, and it really fulfilled my expectations."
For those worried about the safety of Thunder Run and the other rides that have sat un-used for years, Hart said have no fear. "We would never even begin thinking about operating the park if safety wasn't the first and most important thing," he said.
Thunder Run is only one of many projects going on around the park ahead of its May opening. A lot of excitement centers around a brand new coaster and an expanded water park, but Hart remains tight-lipped. "They're actually all purchased, we know where they are all going, we just want to do a gradual rollout, we want to keep you interested," he said.
Officials said more announcements are coming the first week in November. At that point they will allow the public to see the new layout of the park.
Kentucky Kingdom is set to open May 24, 2014.
Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All rights reserved.